When picturing an object of Japanese lacquer, we usually think of tableware. However, this is an art object made of lacquer. Soichiro Miyashiro is an artist who creates work with various approaches using a traditional Japanese lacquer method. Creative director Takayuki Minami tells me of when he first encountered Miyashiro’s work. “I was shocked by the fact that the work was made of lacquer, be it a modern approach. I was stunned at the impeccable craftsmanship, which requires a time consuming process and an enormous amount of effort in lacquer making, that went into creating this piece of art. This work changed my image of lacquer completely”.
Miyashiro was 15 years old when he discovered Japanese lacquer.
“I was trained as an apprentice in lacquer work for articles that are presented to God and at religious services in temples and shrines. The articles are items which were used as diplomatic gifts during the Nara, Heian and Muromachi periods. Investing time and using the finest materials, they made items of the best quality, putting national prestige into them. It is a special technique that people from other countries could never imitate. I got goose bumps when I first engaged in the technique, which has been passed down for over 1300 years. I was moved by the spirit, manner, tradition and its powerful energy as a whole. It is not for ordinary people, but has an extremely long history. I just continued it, being driven by a sense of responsibility.
I also do other work, which cultivates new possibilities for lacquer, by combining the lacquer technique with modern art and elements of art. If there are 100 things that lacquer can make now, I think there can be 100 million more things we can do. This material has still so much to discover and that’s the point I am interested in. Curving wood and applying lacquer, I think the story of craftsmanship and good quality is already known. But I have a bigger story, which can unfold another aesthetic of the lacquer. To pursue my mission, I think what I should do is to deliver authenticity and expand the possibilities. I think it is important to show its history as an archive, as well as its technique correctly, and tell of the work which only Japanese lacquer can achieve” says Miyashiro.
Miyashiro logically creates works and also builds a story for them. He creates several series of works parallelly, and completes them within 3 to 5 years. ‘Pumpkin’, which you see in this feature, is one of his series that comes with a story. “The approach is very interesting. The technique is a traditional craft but the way it’s presented is a form of art work. Normally, lacquer is something with purpose but Miyashiro’s work exists as an art” says Minami.
“I used dried lacquer for this work. After sketching out a pumpkin, I created a form with clay, made a plaster cast of it, then covered it with linen and Japanese washi paper. Due to the nature of lacquer, it should remain as it is for about 1000 years. From the flat surface of the stalk end, you can tell that this pumpkin was picked by hand using a sharp knife. By leaving a trace of time, this work cuts out the moment and deifies it. I hope the lacquer gives durability to it, so that it will remain over the years and can be recognised as a work of the Heisei and Reiwa eras. In terms of the colour and texture, a Buddha in Hokkedo, Todaiji Temple, which was made 1300 years ago, and this pumpkin, which was made in Heisei, have similarities. I am doing this as a sort of experimental project. Imagine these two were discovered at the same time after decades or hundreds of years have pased? I would like us to discover ‘these two were actually created in different eras, even though they used the same lacquer and have been aged in a similar way. After 100 years, what will those who saw these two works think of the future of lacquer? That’s the concept of it” says Miyashiro. He seeks new possibilities of lacquer that he cannot find out while he is still alive. That’s his way of shaping the history of lacquer, and also his forerunners might have left some message in their work. Looking back at the history of lacquer, which is connected to us to this day, I feel a profound sense of history and romance, and I wonder where the history of lacquer will take us.
A creative director. Including his own brand, Hibiya Central Market and Graphpaper, he created various stores and branding. His insight in aesthetics is highly acknowledged in the fashion industry.
|Select Takayuki Minami||Photo Masayuki Nakaya||Interview & Text Takuya Chiba
Translation Fumie Tsuji